Suhrid Barua has an unbridled passion for business and sports. He has worked/written for media houses like Thatscricket.com, The New Indian Express, MiD Day, Maharastra Herald (now Sakaal Times), Pune Mirror (Times of India's tabloid daily), CricketCountry, The Assam Tribune, The Telegraph and Sportskeeda. Watch out for this blog space for interviews, analysis, match coverage, stats figures and much more!
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Will work hard to seal my place in the World Cup, says India talented youngster Lalit Kumar Upadhyay
One of the stars of the recently-held Hero Hockey India League,
Lalit Kumar Upadhyay is now keen to build on that good run and put his
best foot forward in the ongoing World Cup camp in New Delhi in a bid to
seal a spot in the national team for the big-ticket event to be held in
The Hague, Netherlands in May-June.
“The 2nd HIL was hugely benefiting for me in terms of gaining
exposure playing against some of the big names of world hockey. I’m
really chuffed to know that the selectors have taken note of my HIL
showing and picked me in the national probables. I will strain every
nerve not to let them down,” he says in an exclusive interview.
The 21-year-old Varanasi lad may have scored just one goal for
debutants Kalinga Lancers in the 2nd HIL, but the manner in which he
created scoring opportunities for his team -- array of passes to his
team-mates, delightful and deceitful speed of him -- left nobody in
doubt that he is a player who count. No doubt he is a long term
material. And the sprightly youngster attributes his decent HIL performance to
Odisha franchise coach Terry Walsh, who is the also the national men’s
team head coach.“Obviously, I have learnt a lot from Terry Walsh
having spent a month for so with me during the HIL. He is a great
motivator and often emphasizes on how to make the best use of one’s
skills. Since he is familiar with my game, I’m sure it will stand me in
good stead in the World Cup camp,” he observes.
This is not Lalit’s first tryst with the national team. The
youngster made his international debut at the 2008 Eight Nations Tourney
in Malaysia before the ‘K Jyotikumaran bribe-taking sting operation’
landed him in a soup for no fault of his.“To be honest, it was a
tough phase for me. I wanted to shun hockey as it was being insinuated
that I had greased the palms of people who matter to get myself picked
in the national side. My mother kept urging me not to give up something I
love the most (playing hockey) and today I owe her a lot for cajoling
me to keep my chin up when the going got really difficult. I now just
want to bury the past and look forward to the future with optimism,” he
says with a tinge of emotion.
Lalit featured in the now-defunct World Series Hockey (WSH) for
Bhopal Badshah. His performance in the WSH attracted encomiums from no
less than Pakistan hockey legend Shahbaz Ahmed who famously said ‘Lalit
plays like me’. “Getting a compliment from a legend like Shahbaz Ahmed
makes you feel good, but I’m an extremely down-to-earth person and never
got carried away with the praise and took it in my stride,” he puts
things in perspective.
India are currently ranked eighth in the world and how does he
assess his team’s chances at the 2014 World Cup? “It’s too early to talk
about it as we still have more than two months for that. I never
believe rankings really matter. Look how India nearly beat Germany twice
in the Hockey World League Final in New Delhi or even a side like
Argentina which stunned the Netherlands at the same event. It’s all
about playing good hockey on any given day,” he puts forth his thoughts.
Lalit, who is on a scholarship contract with Air India, lavishes
praise on his employers for backing him to the hilt. “I owe a lot to
Air India. No praise can be high for them for the manner in which they
kept supporting me all these years. Dhanraj bhai (Pillay) is my role
model and I have learnt so much from him while playing for Air India;
Sameer bhai (Dad), Arjun bhai (Halappa) have also contributed their bit
in helping me grow as a player.
And the parting shot was about cornering glory for the
Blueshirts. “I will work hard to seal a place in the final squad and
hopefully play a big part for the country in The Hague.”